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Whether you’ve been in the customer service industry your entire life or you’ve only just joined, you’re undoubtedly familiar with one very common phrase: “The customer is always right.” This has been accepted as a gold standard of delivering customer service for as long as we can remember. But how accurate is this statement in reality? Just as customer service representatives are humans, not robots, customers are human, too, and susceptible to making mistakes or reacting disproportionately to the situation. So, is the customer always right?

The customer is right - in their own mind

The answer is that the customer is always right – at least, in their own mind. In the end, it actually doesn’t matter if the customer is objectively right or wrong in any given situation. After all, debating with the customer about their opinion of the problem will get you nowhere productive, but it will cost you loyal customers. You’re highly unlikely to convince someone that what they’re feeling or experiencing is not correct. The job of a customer service representative is to solve the customer’s problem or answer a question, not to serve as a judge and jury making decisions on whether the customer’s needs are fair or not.

Often, seeking out help from an organization when one of their products or services is confusing or not working as designed is a stressful, frustrating, or otherwise effortful experience. Regardless of if their needs or requests seem outrageous or perfectly reasonable, it likely feels like a very legitimate concern to them. Very few people will take the time to call or visit a company to make a complaint or ask a question that they themselves feel is ridiculous or a waste of time.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Even if a customer perceives that your company has made a mistake, they’re very likely to continue to do business with your organization if they feel it was handled well. In fact, according to Salesforce Research, 78% of consumers report feeling this way. In the end, the way the customer service representative feels about whatever issue the customer is contacting the company about does not matter much at all. What’s important here is that their concerns are being taken seriously and their problems resolved.

Focus on what you can do

One thing we know for sure, though, is that telling a customer “no” is not an advisable strategy. The customer is most certainly not taking valuable time out of their day to contact your organization to find out what you're not able to do for them. The best thing for your team members to do is put their personal feelings about the situation aside, identify what they can do for the customer, communicate this to them and get to work on actioning their plan.

For team members who may get caught up in trying to decide if, in fact, the customer is right in a specific situation, it may be helpful to encourage them to shift their focus altogether. Instead of trying to reach a decision on the matter, help them to see that the customer’s question or concern exists regardless of its legitimacy. Encourage them to consider…

  • What will their next step be?
  • How will they serve this customer in a way that will ensure this customer is part of the 89% of consumers, as reported by Salesforce Research, who do business with the same company again following a positive experience?
  • How will they verify that their plan of action has resulted in a satisfactory resolution for the customer?

By far, these are the more important questions to be asking.

Some customers will contact your organization with a simpler problem and, while they may believe earnestly that they’re correct about the matter even if they’re not, it’ll be a quick and simple fix. Take, for example, a customer who calls in to a member of your team explaining that the bill you’ve just sent them is completely incorrect and you’ve wildly overcharged them. A member of your team will be able to talk through your customer’s bill with them and explain that, perhaps, they’ve misinterpreted one of the numbers. Resolving such a problem will be, ideally, relatively painless.

Quick and Simple Fix

Sometimes, though, a customer might make a demand that is beyond what your employee is able to support. To learn more about how to handle these trickier customer situations and to hear from a panel of Customer Service Superstars in a unique peer-to-peer training course, contact a Service Skills representative today and request a free demo of the Service Matters Roundtable Series.

Be sure to check out these additional videos and posts from our ServiceMatters Roundtable from the team at ServiceSkills: